The Idiot, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Chapter II.

IT was the beginning of June, and for a whole week the weather in St. Petersburg had been magnificent. The Epanchins had a luxurious country-house at Pavlofsk, [One of the fashionable summer resorts near St. Petersburg.] and to this spot Mrs. Epanchin determined to proceed without further delay. In a couple of days all was ready, and the family had left town. A day or two after this removal to Pavlofsk, Prince Muishkin arrived in St. Petersburg by the morning train from Moscow. No one met him; but, as he stepped out of the carriage, he suddenly became aware of two strangely glowing eyes fixed upon him from among the crowd that met the train. On endeavouring to re-discover the eyes, and see to whom they belonged, he could find nothing to guide him. It must have been a hallucination. But the disagreeable impression remained, and without this, the prince was sad and thoughtful already, and seemed to be much preoccupied.

His cab took him to a small and bad hotel near the Litaynaya. Here he engaged a couple of rooms, dark and badly furnished. He washed and changed, and hurriedly left the hotel again, as though anxious to waste no time. Anyone who now saw him for the first time since he left Petersburg would judge that he had improved vastly so far as his exterior was concerned. His clothes certainly were very different; they were more fashionable, perhaps even too much so, and anyone inclined to mockery might have found something to smile at in his appearance. But what is there that people will not smile at?

The prince took a cab and drove to a street near the Nativity, where he soon discovered the house he was seeking. It was a small wooden villa, and he was struck by its attractive and clean appearance; it stood in a pleasant little garden, full of flowers. The windows looking on the street were open, and the sound of a voice, reading aloud or making a speech, came through them. It rose at times to a shout, and was interrupted occasionally by bursts of laughter.

Prince Muishkin entered the court-yard, and ascended the steps. A cook with her sleeves turned up to the elbows opened the door. The visitor asked if Mr. Lebedeff were at home.

“He is in there,” said she, pointing to the salon.

The room had a blue wall-paper, and was well, almost pretentiously, furnished, with its round table, its divan, and its bronze clock under a glass shade. There was a narrow pier-glass against the wall, and a chandelier adorned with lustres hung by a bronze chain from the ceiling.

When the prince entered, Lebedeff was standing in the middle of the room, his back to the door. He was in his shirt-sleeves, on account of the extreme heat, and he seemed to have just reached the peroration of his speech, and was impressively beating his breast.

His audience consisted of a youth of about fifteen years of age with a clever face, who had a book in his hand, though he was not reading; a young lady of twenty, in deep mourning, stood near him with an infant in her arms; another girl of thirteen, also in black, was laughing loudly, her mouth wide open; and on the sofa lay a handsome young man, with black hair and eyes, and a suspicion of beard and whiskers. He frequently interrupted the speaker and argued with him, to the great delight of the others.

“Lukian Timofeyovitch! Lukian Timofeyovitch! Here’s someone to see you! Look here! . . . a gentleman to speak to you! . . . Well, it’s not my fault!” and the cook turned and went away red with anger.

Lebedeff started, and at sight of the prince stood like a statue for a moment. Then he moved up to him with an ingratiating smile, but stopped short again.

“Prince! ex-ex-excellency!” he stammered. Then suddenly he ran towards the girl with the infant, a movement so unexpected by her that she staggered and fell back, but next moment he was threatening the other child, who was standing, still laughing, in the doorway. She screamed, and ran towards the kitchen. Lebedeff stamped his foot angrily; then, seeing the prince regarding him with amazement, he murmured apologetically —“Pardon to show respect! . . . he-he!”

“ You are quite wrong . . .” began the prince.

“At once . . . at once . . . in one moment!”

He rushed like a whirlwind from the room, and Muishkin looked inquiringly at the others.

They were all laughing, and the guest joined in the chorus.

“He has gone to get his coat,” said the boy.

“How annoying!” exclaimed the prince. “I thought . . . Tell me, is he . . .”

“You think he is drunk?” cried the young man on the sofa. “ Not in the least. He’s only had three or four small glasses, perhaps five; but what is that? The usual thing!”

As the prince opened his mouth to answer, he was interrupted by the girl, whose sweet face wore an expression of absolute frankness.

“He never drinks much in the morning; if you have come to talk business with him, do it now. It is the best time. He sometimes comes back drunk in the evening; but just now he passes the greater part of the evening in tears, and reads passages of Holy Scripture aloud, because our mother died five weeks ago.”

“No doubt he ran off because he did not know what to say to you,” said the youth on the divan. “I bet he is trying to cheat you, and is thinking how best to do it.”

Just then Lebedeff returned, having put on his coat.

“Five weeks!” said he, wiping his eyes. “Only five weeks! Poor orphans!”

“But why wear a coat in holes,” asked the girl, “when your new one is hanging behind the door? Did you not see it?”

“Hold your tongue, dragon-fly!” he scolded. “What a plague you are!” He stamped his foot irritably, but she only laughed, and answered:

“Are you trying to frighten me? I am not Tania, you know, and I don’t intend to run away. Look, you are waking Lubotchka, and she will have convulsions again. Why do you shout like that?”

“Well, well! I won’t again,” said the master of the house his anxiety getting the better of his temper. He went up to his daughter, and looked at the child in her arms, anxiously making the sign of the cross over her three times. “God bless her! God bless her!” he cried with emotion. “This little creature is my daughter Luboff,” addressing the prince. “My wife, Helena, died — at her birth; and this is my big daughter Vera, in mourning, as you see; and this, this, oh, this pointing to the young man on the divan . . .

“Well, go on! never mind me!” mocked the other. “Don’t be afraid!”

“Excellency! Have you read that account of the murder of the Zemarin family, in the newspaper?” cried Lebedeff, all of a sudden.

“Yes,” said Muishkin, with some surprise.

“Well, that is the murderer! It is he — in fact —”

“What do you mean?” asked the visitor.

“I am speaking allegorically, of course; but he will be the murderer of a Zemarin family in the future. He is getting ready . .. .”

They all laughed, and the thought crossed the prince’s mind that perhaps Lebedeff was really trifling in this way because he foresaw inconvenient questions, and wanted to gain time.

“He is a traitor! a conspirator!” shouted Lebedeff, who seemed to have lost all control over himself. “ A monster! a slanderer! Ought I to treat him as a nephew, the son of my sister Anisia?”

“Oh! do be quiet! You must be drunk! He has taken it into his head to play the lawyer, prince, and he practices speechifying, and is always repeating his eloquent pleadings to his children. And who do you think was his last client? An old woman who had been robbed of five hundred roubles, her all, by some rogue of a usurer, besought him to take up her case, instead of which he defended the usurer himself, a Jew named Zeidler, because this Jew promised to give him fifty roubles . . . .”

“It was to be fifty if I won the case, only five if I lost,” interrupted Lebedeff, speaking in a low tone, a great contrast to his earlier manner.

“Well! naturally he came to grief: the law is not administered as it used to be, and he only got laughed at for his pains. But he was much pleased with himself in spite of that. ‘Most learned judge!’ said he, ‘picture this unhappy man, crippled by age and infirmities, who gains his living by honourable toil — picture him, I repeat, robbed of his all, of his last mouthful; remember, I entreat you, the words of that learned legislator, “Let mercy and justice alike rule the courts of law.”’ Now, would you believe it, excellency, every morning he recites this speech to us from beginning to end, exactly as he spoke it before the magistrate. To-day we have heard it for the fifth time. He was just starting again when you arrived, so much does he admire it. He is now preparing to undertake another case. I think, by the way, that you are Prince Muishkin? Colia tells me you are the cleverest man he has ever known . . . .”

“The cleverest in the world,” interrupted his uncle hastily.

“I do not pay much attention to that opinion,” continued the young man calmly. “Colia is very fond of you, but he,” pointing to Lebedeff, “is flattering you. I can assure you I have no intention of flattering you, or anyone else, but at least you have some common-sense. Well, will you judge between us? Shall we ask the prince to act as arbitrator?” he went on, addressing his uncle.

“I am so glad you chanced to come here, prince.”

“I agree,” said Lebedeff, firmly, looking round involuntarily at his daughter, who had come nearer, and was listening attentively to the conversation.

“What is it all about?” asked the prince, frowning. His head ached, and he felt sure that Lebedeff was trying to cheat him in some way, and only talking to put off the explanation that he had come for.

“I will tell you all the story. I am his nephew; he did speak the truth there, although he is generally telling lies. I am at the University, and have not yet finished my course. I mean to do so, and I shall, for I have a determined character. I must, however, find something to do for the present, and therefore I have got employment on the railway at twenty-four roubles a month. I admit that my uncle has helped me once or twice before. Well, I had twenty roubles in my pocket, and I gambled them away. Can you believe that I should be so low, so base, as to lose money in that way?”

“And the man who won it is a rogue, a rogue whom you ought not to have paid!” cried Lebedeff.

“Yes, he is a rogue, but I was obliged to pay him,” said the young man. “As to his being a rogue, he is assuredly that, and I am not saying it because he beat you. He is an ex-lieutenant, prince, dismissed from the service, a teacher of boxing, and one of Rogojin’s followers. They are all lounging about the pavements now that Rogojin has turned them off. Of course, the worst of it is that, knowing he was a rascal, and a card-sharper, I none the less played palki with him, and risked my last rouble. To tell the truth, I thought to myself, ‘If I lose, I will go to my uncle, and I am sure he will not refuse to help me.’ Now that was base-cowardly and base!”

“That is so,” observed Lebedeff quietly; “cowardly and base.”

“Well, wait a bit, before you begin to triumph,” said the nephew viciously; for the words seemed to irritate him. “He is delighted! I came to him here and told him everything: I acted honourably, for I did not excuse myself. I spoke most severely of my conduct, as everyone here can witness. But I must smarten myself up before I take up my new post, for I am really like a tramp. Just look at my boots! I cannot possibly appear like this, and if I am not at the bureau at the time appointed, the job will be given to someone else; and I shall have to try for another. Now I only beg for fifteen roubles, and I give my word that I will never ask him for anything again. I am also ready to promise to repay my debt in three months’ time, and I will keep my word, even if I have to live on bread and water. My salary will amount to seventy-five roubles in three months. The sum I now ask, added to what I have borrowed already, will make a total of about thirty-five roubles, so you see I shall have enough to pay him and confound him! if he wants interest, he shall have that, too! Haven’t I always paid back the money he lent me before? Why should he be so mean now? He grudges my having paid that lieutenant; there can be no other reason! That’s the kind he is — a dog in the manger!”

“And he won’t go away!” cried Lebedeff. “He has installed himself here, and here he remains!”

“I have told you already, that I will not go away until I have got what I ask. Why are you smiling, prince? You look as if you disapproved of me.”

“I am not smiling, but I really think you are in the wrong, somewhat,” replied Muishkin, reluctantly.

“Don’t shuffle! Say plainly that you think that I am quite wrong, without any ‘somewhat’! Why ‘somewhat’?”

“I will say you are quite wrong, if you wish.”

“If I wish! That’s good, I must say! Do you think I am deceived as to the flagrant impropriety of my conduct? I am quite aware that his money is his own, and that my action — As much like an attempt at extortion. But you-you don’t know what life is! If people don’t learn by experience, they never understand. They must be taught. My intentions are perfectly honest; on my conscience he will lose nothing, and I will pay back the money with interest. Added to which he has had the moral satisfaction of seeing me disgraced. What does he want more? and what is he good for if he never helps anyone? Look what he does himself! just ask him about his dealings with others, how he deceives people! How did he manage to buy this house? You may cut off my head if he has not let you in for something-and if he is not trying to cheat you again. You are smiling. You don’t believe me?”

“It seems to me that all this has nothing to do with your affairs,” remarked the prince.

“I have lain here now for three days,” cried the young man without noticing, “and I have seen a lot! Fancy! he suspects his daughter, that angel, that orphan, my cousin — he suspects her, and every evening he searches her room, to see if she has a lover hidden in it! He comes here too on tiptoe, creeping softly — oh, so softly — and looks under the sofa — my bed, you know. He is mad with suspicion, and sees a thief in every corner. He runs about all night long; he was up at least seven times last night, to satisfy himself that the windows and doors were barred, and to peep into the oven. That man who appears in court for scoundrels, rushes in here in the night and prays, lying prostrate, banging his head on the ground by the half-hour — and for whom do you think he prays? Who are the sinners figuring in his drunken petitions? I have heard him with my own ears praying for the repose of the soul of the Countess du Barry! Colia heard it too. He is as mad as a March hare!”

“You hear how he slanders me, prince,” said Lebedeff, almost beside himself with rage. “I may be a drunkard, an evil-doer, a thief, but at least I can say one thing for myself. He does not know — how should he, mocker that he is? — that when he came into the world it was I who washed him, and dressed him in his swathing-bands, for my sister Anisia had lost her husband, and was in great poverty. I was very little better off than she, but I sat up night after night with her, and nursed both mother and child; I used to go downstairs and steal wood for them from the house-porter. How often did I sing him to sleep when I was half dead with hunger! In short, I was more than a father to him, and now — now he jeers at me! Even if I did cross myself, and pray for the repose of the soul of the Comtesse du Barry, what does it matter? Three days ago, for the first time in my life, I read her biography in an historical dictionary. Do you know who she was? You there!” addressing his nephew. “Speak! do you know?”

“Of course no one knows anything about her but you,” muttered the young man in a would-be jeering tone.

“She was a Countess who rose from shame to reign like a Queen. An Empress wrote to her, with her own hand, as ‘Ma chere cousine.’ At a lever-du-roi one morning (do you know what a lever-du-roi was?)— a Cardinal, a Papal legate, offered to put on her stockings; a high and holy person like that looked on it as an honour! Did you know this? I see by your expression that you did not! Well, how did she die? Answer!”

“Oh! do stop — you are too absurd!”

“This is how she died. After all this honour and glory, after having been almost a Queen, she was guillotined by that butcher, Samson. She was quite innocent, but it had to be done, for the satisfaction of the fishwives of Paris. She was so terrified, that she did not understand what was happening. But when Samson seized her head, and pushed her under the knife with his foot, she cried out: ‘Wait a moment! wait a moment, monsieur!’ Well, because of that moment of bitter suffering, perhaps the Saviour will pardon her other faults, for one cannot imagine a greater agony. As I read the story my heart bled for her. And what does it matter to you, little worm, if I implored the Divine mercy for her, great sinner as she was, as I said my evening prayer? I might have done it because I doubted if anyone had ever crossed himself for her sake before. It may be that in the other world she will rejoice to think that a sinner like herself has cried to heaven for the salvation of her soul. Why are you laughing? You believe nothing, atheist! And your story was not even correct! If you had listened to what I was saying, you would have heard that I did not only pray for the Comtesse du Barry. I said, ‘Oh Lord! give rest to the soul of that great sinner, the Comtesse du Barry, and to all unhappy ones like her.’ You see that is quite a different thing, for how many sinners there are, how many women, who have passed through the trials of this life, are now suffering and groaning in purgatory! I prayed for you, too, in spite of your insolence and impudence, also for your fellows, as it seems that you claim to know how I pray. . .”

“Oh! that’s enough in all conscience! Pray for whom you choose, and the devil take them and you! We have a scholar here; you did not know that, prince?” he continued, with a sneer. “He reads all sorts of books and memoirs now.”

“At any rate, your uncle has a kind heart,” remarked the prince, who really had to force himself to speak to the nephew, so much did he dislike him.

“Oh, now you are going to praise him! He will be set up! He puts his hand on his heart, and he is delighted! I never said he was a man without heart, but he is a rascal — that’s the pity of it. And then, he is addicted to drink, and his mind is unhinged, like that of most people who have taken more than is good for them for years. He loves his children — oh, I know that well enough! He respected my aunt, his late wife . . . and he even has a sort of affection for me. He has remembered me in his will.”

“I shall leave you nothing!” exclaimed his uncle angrily.

“Listen to me, Lebedeff,” said the prince in a decided voice, turning his back on the young man. “I know by experience that when you choose, you can be business-like. . I . I have very little time to spare, and if you . . . By the way — excuse me — what is your Christian name? I have forgotten it.”

“Ti-Ti-Timofey.”

“And?”

“Lukianovitch.”

Everyone in the room began to laugh.

“He is telling lies!” cried the nephew. “Even now he cannot speak the truth. He is not called Timofey Lukianovitch, prince, but Lukian Timofeyovitch. Now do tell us why you must needs lie about it? Lukian or Timofey, it is all the same to you, and what difference can it make to the prince? He tells lies without the least necessity, simply by force of habit, I assure you.”

“Is that true?” said the prince impatiently.

“My name really is Lukian Timofeyovitch,” acknowledged Lebedeff, lowering his eyes, and putting his hand on his heart.

“Well, for God’s sake, what made you say the other?”

“To humble myself,” murmured Lebedeff.

“What on earth do you mean? Oh I if only I knew where Colia was at this moment!” cried the prince, standing up, as if to go.

“I can tell you all about Colia,” said the young man

“Oh! no, no!” said Lebedeff, hurriedly.

“Colia spent the night here, and this morning went after his father, whom you let out of prison by paying his debts — Heaven only knows why! Yesterday the general promised to come and lodge here, but he did not appear. Most probably he slept at the hotel close by. No doubt Colia is there, unless he has gone to Pavlofsk to see the Epanchins. He had a little money, and was intending to go there yesterday. He must be either at the hotel or at Pavlofsk.”

“At Pavlofsk! He is at Pavlofsk, undoubtedly!” interrupted Lebedeff. . . . “But come — let us go into the garden — we will have coffee there . . . .” And Lebedeff seized the prince’s arm, and led him from the room. They went across the yard, and found themselves in a delightful little garden with the trees already in their summer dress of green, thanks to the unusually fine weather. Lebedeff invited his guest to sit down on a green seat before a table of the same colour fixed in the earth, and took a seat facing him. In a few minutes the coffee appeared, and the prince did not refuse it. The host kept his eyes fixed on Muishkin, with an expression of passionate servility.

“I knew nothing about your home before,” said the prince absently, as if he were thinking of something else.

“Poor orphans,” began Lebedeff, his face assuming a mournful air, but he stopped short, for the other looked at him inattentively, as if he had already forgotten his own remark. They waited a few minutes in silence, while Lebedeff sat with his eyes fixed mournfully on the young man’s face.

“Well!” said the latter, at last rousing himself. “Ah! yes! You know why I came, Lebedeff. Your letter brought me. Speak! Tell me all about it.”

The clerk, rather confused, tried to say something, hesitated, began to speak, and again stopped. The prince looked at him gravely.

“I think I understand, Lukian Timofeyovitch: you were not sure that I should come. You did not think I should start at the first word from you, and you merely wrote to relieve your conscience. However, you see now that I have come, and I have had enough of trickery. Give up serving, or trying to serve, two masters. Rogojin has been here these three weeks. Have you managed to sell her to him as you did before? Tell me the truth.”

“He discovered everything, the monster . . . himself . . . . ..”

“Don’t abuse him; though I dare say you have something to complain of . . . .”

“He beat me, he thrashed me unmercifully!” replied Lebedeff vehemently. “He set a dog on me in Moscow, a bloodhound, a terrible beast that chased me all down the street.”

“You seem to take me for a child, Lebedeff. Tell me, is it a fact that she left him while they were in Moscow?”

“Yes, it is a fact, and this time, let me tell you, on the very eve of their marriage! It was a question of minutes when she slipped off to Petersburg. She came to me directly she arrived — ‘Save me, Lukian! find me some refuge, and say nothing to the prince!’ She is afraid of you, even more than she is of him, and in that she shows her wisdom!” And Lebedeff slily put his finger to his brow as he said the last words.

“And now it is you who have brought them together again?”

“Excellency, how could I, how could I prevent it?”

“That will do. I can find out for myself. Only tell me, where is she now? At his house? With him?”

“Oh no! Certainly not! ‘I am free,’ she says; you know how she insists on that point. ‘I am entirely free.’ She repeats it over and over again. She is living in Petersburgskaia, with my sister-in-law, as I told you in my letter.”

“She is there at this moment?”

“Yes, unless she has gone to Pavlofsk: the fine weather may have tempted her, perhaps, into the country, with Daria Alexeyevna. ‘I am quite free,’ she says. Only yesterday she boasted of her freedom to Nicolai Ardalionovitch — a bad sign,” added Lebedeff, smiling.

“Colia goes to see her often, does he not?”

“He is a strange boy, thoughtless, and inclined to be indiscreet.”

“Is it long since you saw her?”

“I go to see her every day, every day.”

“Then you were there yesterday?”

“N-no: I have not been these three last days.”

“It is a pity you have taken too much wine, Lebedeff I want to ask you something . . . but. . .”

“All right! all right! I am not drunk,” replied the clerk, preparing to listen.

“Tell me, how was she when you left her?”

“She is a woman who is seeking. .. ”

“Seeking?”

“She seems always to be searching about, as if she had lost something. The mere idea of her coming marriage disgusts her; she looks on it as an insult. She cares as much for HIM as for a piece of orange-peel — not more. Yet I am much mistaken if she does not look on him with fear and trembling. She forbids his name to be mentioned before her, and they only meet when unavoidable. He understands, well enough! But it must be gone through She is restless, mocking, deceitful, violent. . . . ”

“Deceitful and violent?”

“Yes, violent. I can give you a proof of it. A few days ago she tried to pull my hair because I said something that annoyed her. I tried to soothe her by reading the Apocalypse aloud.”

“What?” exclaimed the prince, thinking he had not heard aright.

“By reading the Apocalypse. The lady has a restless imagination, he-he! She has a liking for conversation on serious subjects, of any kind; in fact they please her so much, that it flatters her to discuss them. Now for fifteen years at least I have studied the Apocalypse, and she agrees with me in thinking that the present is the epoch represented by the third horse, the black one whose rider holds a measure in his hand. It seems to me that everything is ruled by measure in our century; all men are clamouring for their rights; ‘a measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny.’ But, added to this, men desire freedom of mind and body, a pure heart, a healthy life, and all God’s good gifts. Now by pleading their rights alone, they will never attain all this, so the white horse, with his rider Death, comes next, and is followed by Hell. We talked about this matter when we met, and it impressed her very much.”

“Do you believe all this?” asked Muishkin, looking curiously at his companion.

“I both believe it and explain it. I am but a poor creature, a beggar, an atom in the scale of humanity. Who has the least respect for Lebedeff? He is a target for all the world, the butt of any fool who chooses to kick him. But in interpreting revelation I am the equal of anyone, great as he may be! Such is the power of the mind and the spirit. I have made a lordly personage tremble, as he sat in his armchair . . . only by talking to him of things concerning the spirit. Two years ago, on Easter Eve, His Excellency Nil Alexeyovitch, whose subordinate I was then, wished to hear what I had to say, and sent a message by Peter Zakkaritch to ask me to go to his private room. ‘They tell me you expound the prophecies relating to Antichrist,’ said he, when we were alone. ‘Is that so?’ ‘ Yes,’ I answered unhesitatingly, and I began to give some comments on the Apostle’s allegorical vision. At first he smiled, but when we reached the numerical computations and correspondences, he trembled, and turned pale. Then he begged me to close the book, and sent me away, promising to put my name on the reward list. That took place as I said on the eve of Easter, and eight days later his soul returned to God.”

“What?”

“It is the truth. One evening after dinner he stumbled as he stepped out of his carriage. He fell, and struck his head on the curb, and died immediately. He was seventy-three years of age, and had a red face, and white hair; he deluged himself with scent, and was always smiling like a child. Peter Zakkaritch recalled my interview with him, and said, ‘YOU FORETOLD HIS DEATH.’”

The prince rose from his seat, and Lebedeff, surprised to see his guest preparing to go so soon, remarked: “You are not interested?” in a respectful tone.

“I am not very well, and my head aches. Doubtless the effect of the journey,” replied the prince, frowning.

“You should go into the country,” said Lebedeff timidly.

The prince seemed to be considering the suggestion.

“You see, I am going into the country myself in three days, with my children and belongings. The little one is delicate; she needs change of air; and during our absence this house will be done up. I am going to Pavlofsk.”

“You are going to Pavlofsk too?” asked the prince sharply. “Everybody seems to be going there. Have you a house in that neighbourhood?”

“I don’t know of many people going to Pavlofsk, and as for the house, Ivan Ptitsin has let me one of his villas rather cheaply. It is a pleasant place, lying on a hill surrounded by trees, and one can live there for a mere song. There is good music to be heard, so no wonder it is popular. I shall stay in the lodge. As to the villa itself. . ”

“Have you let it?”

“N-no — not exactly.”

“Let it to me,” said the prince.

Now this was precisely what Lebedeff had made up his mind to do in the last three minutes. Not that he bad any difficulty in finding a tenant; in fact the house was occupied at present by a chance visitor, who had told Lebedeff that he would perhaps take it for the summer months. The clerk knew very well that this “PERHAPS” meant “CERTAINLY,” but as he thought he could make more out of a tenant like the prince, he felt justified in speaking vaguely about the present inhabitant’s intentions. “This is quite a coincidence,” thought he, and when the subject of price was mentioned, he made a gesture with his hand, as if to waive away a question of so little importance.

“Oh well, as you like!” said Muishkin. “I will think it over. You shall lose nothing!”

They were walking slowly across the garden.

“But if you . . . I could . . .” stammered Lebedeff, “if . . . if you please, prince, tell you something on the subject which would interest you, I am sure.” He spoke in wheedling tones, and wriggled as he walked along.

Muishkin stopped short.

“Daria Alexeyevna also has a villa at Pavlofsk.”

“Well?”

“A certain person is very friendly with her, and intends to visit her pretty often.”

Well?”

“Aglaya Ivanovna . . . ”

“Oh stop, Lebedeff!” interposed Muishkin, feeling as if he had been touched on an open wound. “That . . . that has nothing to do with me. I should like to know when you are going to start. The sooner the better as far as I am concerned, for I am at an hotel.”

They had left the garden now, and were crossing the yard on their way to the gate.

“Well, leave your hotel at once and come here; then we can all go together to Pavlofsk the day after tomorrow.”

“I will think about it,” said the prince dreamily, and went off.

The clerk stood looking after his guest, struck by his sudden absent-mindedness. He had not even remembered to say goodbye, and Lebedeff was the more surprised at the omission, as he knew by experience how courteous the prince usually was.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 15:49